I should know better. I am well-versed in the human rights situation in Guatemala. I spent all of last semester working in an office that reports on the threats, kidnappings, and killings of human rights defenders in Guatemala.
The policemen that stand outside our office everyday dressed in full uniform with large black boots and rifles were not just there to enjoy the shade of our beautiful mango trees as I thought. In my naiveté I assumed that they were just lackadaisical police officers hoping to rest in the shade for awhile during their duty. However, I was completely wrong.
The ADIVIMA/Guatemala office here in Rabinal, Guatemala, has a full-time police presence to guard their office and ensure that those who oppose their work do not have the opportunity to threaten or harm their employees or beneficiaries. Working in such a quiet and rural area I had already forgotten everything that I had learned this past semester working at the Guatemala Human Rights Commission back in Washington D.C.
It was in exactly these secluded rural areas that the Guatemalan military was able to get away with their atrocious acts of genocide against the indigenous populations. Many people falsely believe that Guatemala is truly a country at peace since the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996, however impunity, corruption, violence, and narco-trafficking are still rampant here.
These problems are not just the result of local gangs or thugs, these problems run up into the highest echelons of the national government. Especially at risk are the people, like those that work at ADIVIMA/Guatemala, who are seeking justice for past violations of humanity. Due to their involvement in exhumations of mass clandestine graves, petitioning for reparations in the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam case, and work to help the victims rebuild their lives, ADIVIMA has been the target of many threats and even false criminal charges from the government to halt their work.
The involvement of the government and the police in many scandals, including narco-trafficking and the murder of Salvadoran politicians, makes their presence here seem almost farcical. Many of the former members of the military and patrolling death squads during the ‘internal conflict` of the 1980`s and 1990`s became members of the official police force after the conflict.
The Guatemalan government has been less than supportive of efforts to truly make reparations to the victims of the internal conflict because so many of those responsible are still in power, or hold sway over those who are, including Rios Montt who is wanted for genocide and currently trying to run again for congress. In a sharp digression from my former naiveté, it makes me wonder, are the police truly here to protect us or simply to keep us under their watch?
Posted By Abby Weil
Posted Jun 24th, 2007